Discover the Mikiphone, the World’s First Portable Record Player: “Fits a Jacket Pocket; Goes into a Lady’s Handbag” (1924)

The iPod shuf­fle recent­ly enjoyed a bit of a come­back on Tik­Tok.

Can the Mikiphone be far behind?

The inven­tion of sib­lings Mik­lós and Éti­enne Vadász, the world’s first pock­et record play­er caused a stir when it was intro­duced a cen­tu­ry ago, nab­bing first prize at an inter­na­tion­al music exhi­bi­tion and find­ing favor with mod­ernist archi­tect Le Cor­busier, who hailed it for embody­ing the “essence of the esprit nou­veau.”

Unlike more recent portable audio inno­va­tions, some assem­bly was required.

It’s fair to assume that the Stan­ford Archive of Record­ed Sound staffer deft­ly unpack­ing antique Mikiphone com­po­nents from its cun­ning Sony Dis­c­man-sized case, above, has more prac­tice putting the thing togeth­er than a ner­vous young fel­la eager to woo his gal al fres­co with his just pur­chased, cut­ting edge 1924 tech­nol­o­gy.

A peri­od adver­tise­ment extols the Mikiphone’s porta­bil­i­ty …

Fits in a jack­et pock­et

Goes in a lady’s hand­bag

Will hang on a cycle frame

Goes in a car door pock­et

Ide­al for pic­nics, car jaunts, riv­er trips

…but fails to men­tion that in order to enjoy it, you’d also have to schlep along a fair amount of 78 RPM records, whose 10-inch diam­e­ters aren’t near­ly so pock­et and purse-com­pat­i­ble.

Mai­son Pail­lard pro­duced approx­i­mate­ly 180,000 of these hand-cranked won­ders over the course of three years. When sales dropped in 1927, the remain­ing stock was sold off at a dis­count or giv­en away to con­test win­ners.

These days, an authen­tic Mik­phone can fetch $500 and upward at auc­tion. (Beware of Miki­phonies!)

Relat­ed Con­tent

Behold the “Book Wheel”: The Renais­sance Inven­tion Cre­at­ed to Make Books Portable & Help Schol­ars Study Sev­er­al Books at Once (1588)

Behold the Jacobean Trav­el­ing Library: The 17th Cen­tu­ry Fore­run­ner to the Kin­dle

The Walk­man Turns 40: See Every Gen­er­a­tion of Sony’s Icon­ic Per­son­al Stereo in One Minute

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.



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